Sunday 25 March 2018

Culinary perfection is easier than you think

The omelette is more than just a super quick, easy, filling and nutritious midweek meal option. Some in the restaurant business would say it is perfection in its simplicity.

No one appreciates the omelette more than the French. It could almost be called their national dish. But why would the French, whose cuisine is made up of such rich sauces and complex culinary creations, exalt such a plain and simple dish? It is exactly for that reason – its simplicity.

Brian McCafferty, Head Chef at The Old Spot
Brian McCafferty, Head Chef at The Old Spot

It’s a well-known fact that many of the profession’s best chefs, if they wish to assess the kitchen skills of a potential no.2, will ask them to make them an omelette. There are no magic tricks involved, no dazzling with exotic flavours and unusual combinations, just the technique with one single ingredient, eggs, and the result is often so varied, it speaks volumes about a chef’s skills and natural abilities.

An omelette can be the easiest thing to get right. If done well, it can have the most intriguing, moist texture and lightness and a sublime flavour that is enhanced, rather than drowned, by seasoning of with salt and pepper. You would expect any chef worth his salt to be able to master the art of the omelette, but you’d be surprised. Brian Mc Cafferty, Head Chef at The Old Spot. "There are so many chefs who get through college and work in top restaurants, and they can’t make an omelette”, he says. “Maybe they’ve just never done it, but you’d be surprised”.

So what is Brian’s secret to the perfect omelette? Brian is currently the man in charge of the kitchen at The Old Spot, an olde world style gastropub in Sandymount, Dublin. The omelette isn’t something that features on the menu, but Brian wouldn’t be averse to the idea. “My ideal food is rustic Italian or rustic Spanish, it’s all based on the freshness of ingredients in season, so the omelette would fit well into that genre of food,” he says.

There are infinite amounts of ways to make an omelette, a million different factors to consider, but first and foremost, according to Brian, is the egg. “The fresher the egg the better, preferably farm fresh and free range. Selecting your ingredients is the most important part of creating any dish”.

“The next important thing is your pan. You want the right size pan, medium for an omelette, about 9 inches, with a nice, clean non-stick finish. If it’s too big you’ll end up with a crepe”, says Brian. “Take three quality assured eggs per person and whisk them. No water or milk, just the eggs. It’s important not to season before you cook, a lot of people make that mistake. Salt actually destroys the structure of the egg white, so if you add it before you cook it, you’ll see the finished eggs just look sloppy, they lose all the yellow, it just seeps out them. You add the salt and pepper to the finished omelette”.

“So add a touch of sunflower oil to the pan, or a knob of butter, keep it at medium to high heat.. Let it set a bit and then stir it so the runny liquid egg gets exposed to the heat of the pan. Do this two or three times, then take it off the heat, it will continue to cook. Add parmesan- style cheese and chives and fold over with a fish slice, slide it onto a plate, season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with more chives and drizzle with olive oil. There’s nothing better”.

Omelettes are brilliantly versatile, you can add anything, using up whatever’s in the fridge to turn the humble egg into a substantial and nutritious mid-week meal, but Brian is a purist and prefers to keep it simple. “Yeah, just parmesan-style cheese and chives,” he says when asked his favourite filling.

That’s the traditional French style omelette, but Brian does get Spanish with his eggs from time to time and finish them under the grill. That is, instead of folding it over, he just places the pan under the grill, it fills the omelette with air and you get a drier, fluffier omelette, Spanish style. You can cook the ingredients in the pan first, pepper, courgettes, diced potatoes, whatever, add the eggs and let them cover and run around the ingredients. You can then cook the top layer under the grill. If you do it on a big pan, you can cook make an omelette big enough to feed for the whole family. Place a plate over the pan and flip it over, if you have enough oil on the pan or it’s a good non-stick surface, it will come right off the pan and sit on the plate. Place in the centre of the table and you can cut slices for everyone.

If you’re looking to impress your guests, try Brian’s soufflé omelette. “You just separate the yolks and the whites. If any bits of shell get into the yolk, they’re magnetic, so you can use a shell to scoop out the tiny pieces of shell. Beat the whites into soft peaks, whisk the yolks and then gently fold the two together. Pour onto to a medium sized pan at medium heat and cook for a minute. Then place it under the grill and the whole thing will rise several inches. You’ll get a light, fluffy soufflé style omelette. It’s great served with cured meats, olives, cheeses, remember to season after it’s cooked,” says Brian.

“If you can master making an omelette, you’re on your way to becoming a very good cook. It requires all the skills that you need to be comfortable in the kitchen,” explains Brian. The omelette is much more than a cooking back up plan, it’s actually one of the easiest, most delicious, and, if done properly, most artful meals you can create.

It’s important to use eggs with the Bord Bia Quality Mark when you’re perfecting your omelette technique, so you can trust that they are produced to the highest Bord Bia quality standards. For more delicious egg recipes, don’t forget to vist Bord Bia

Time to get cracking!.

Sponsored by: Bord Bia

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